The Hybrid Dragon
Chapter 1: Of Black Draconium
Sakara leant on the handle of her broom, closed her eyes and took a deep breath. The smell of the numerous dragons relaxed her more than anything in the world. She was suddenly aware of a dragon at her shoulder. Its body was jet black, with vibrant gold patterns in the shape of ancient lettering snaking around its delicate yet powerful frame. Its eyes were a deep, glistening blue, and were rimmed with lilac half-circles.
“Hello, Saierria,” Sakara murmured, stroking the dragon’s snout with a finger. Saierria nudged the broom with her small paw, before giving a disapproving growl. “Be grateful you don’t have to do chores, Saierria,” Sakara laughed, sweeping her copper-brown hair over her shoulder. “It’s all very well being the dragon, sleeping, magging gear, eating and running, but you want to try running a stable. If it weren’t for me, you’d be on the streets, sniffing round rubbish bins.”
Saierria looked highly affronted, and drove her head into Sakara’s shoulder just hard enough to push her several yards.
“I’m joking! I know, without you, I wouldn’t even have a stable. But I can’t finish sweeping up when you’re shoving me around, so scoot.”
Saierria chortled and ambled towards the barn at the far end of the yard. But halfway there, she stopped and sniffed the air. There was a distinct odour of an unfamiliar dragon in the air, and it seemed close.
Sakara paused and looked up from the patch of mud on the yard. “Saierria?” She slowly approached her dragon and placed a hand on her neck. Saierria remained completely motionless for a few seconds, and then suddenly unleashed a terrific mag blast at an area of the wall. There was a screech, and a jet black dragon covered in gear appeared out of nowhere. The gold and purple mag stream faded, and Saierria bellowed furiously at the dragon. It stumbled, gave a last snarl and fled.
“What was that, girl?” Sakara breathed, more to herself than the growling dragon beside her. Saierria narrowed her sapphire eyes and resumed her path to the barn, leaving Sakara stunned in the middle of the yard.
“Well, well, well, a hybrid dragon,” Word muttered. “A mixture of black and gold draconium in the form of a dragon.” He turned away from the monitors as the picture of the dragon abruptly vanished. “A dragon strong enough to defeat the Dragon Booster…”
“Do you want me to steal it?” Moordryd asked.
“Yes. But stay alert. If this dragon is what I think it is, we may have more than mag blasts to worry about.” Word Paynn faced the monitors again, and Moordryd left the room. When he was sure that his son would not return, the CEO of Paynn Incorporated brought up the image of the black and gold dragon on the monitors and studied it closely.
“Who are you?” he muttered. His eyes rested on the gold patterns, and memories that were not his flashed through his mind. He grabbed the table for support and tried to gain control over the presence, but the images kept coming. Two dragons, one black, one gold…an egg, unchanged for millennia…an amulet…armour…the union of black and gold…
The moment passed, and Word collapsed into a chair, exhausted by the experience. The monitors had blacked out, but that was the only sign that anything out of the ordinary had occurred. He thought back to the markings on the dragon’s body. They seemed familiar, yet he could not recall why.
“A hybrid dragon…Why does that mean so much to me...?”
Moordryd watched from behind a wall as the girl took a black dragon across the yard. He had waited for half an hour, and she was still doing last-minute chores.
“How long does it take to put a couple of dragons in stables?” Cain asked incredulously. Moordryd silenced him with a glare and went back to monitoring the girl’s movements. She turned her back to the waiting Dragon Eyes, and Moordryd seized his opportunity.
Cain fired the green trapping gear at the girl, certain that there was no way she could escape. She turned at the last second, just in time to see the green wires three metres from her. Within seconds, she was pinned to the wall, completely defenceless. Moordryd led the Dragon Eyes out of the shadows and into the yard.
“Where is the black and gold dragon?” he asked. The girl remained silent, glaring back at him. “You’ll be much more comfortable if you just answer my questions,” he continued, drawing an energy draining whip from inside his jacket. Still the girl refused to speak, but there was no trace of fear in her blue-grey eyes.
“I don’t think we’re going to get anything out of her, Moordryd,” Cain muttered.
“Oh? I think she’ll have more than enough to say when I do this,” Moordryd replied with a bitter smile. He lashed the whip round and it struck her on her right shoulder. She flinched at the force of the contact, but maintained eye contact with Moordryd despite the fact that her energy was being drained with every passing second.
“I’ll ask you again: Where is the black and gold dragon?”
“I’ll never tell you,” the girl finally spat. “I’ll never tell you where the black and gold dragon is. You can keep draining my energy all night long, and I still won’t tell you. If I die, at least she’ll be safe by then.”
Moordryd was temporarily taken aback by the conviction in her voice. She seemed ready to give her life for the dragon. He stared into her eyes and saw no uncertainty.
“Do you think she’s bluffing?” Cain asked.
Moordryd remained motionless, locked into the stare. At last, he jerked the whip off the girl, breaking the contact and ending the energy drain. He sent his dragon forward slowly until they were standing two feet from her and drew his mag-staff. Still under the girl’s gaze, he gradually moved the staff under one of the wires suspending her and lifted it. He kept raising the staff until the cable snapped, and then began to sever the next line.
“Moordryd, what are you doing?”
Moordryd ignored his crew and freed the girl from the trapping gear. She landed smoothly and remained standing for a few moments, but the energy drain had taken its toll on her, and she swayed on the spot before collapsing against the wall. Her copper-brown hair slipped from behind her shoulders and fell about her pale face as she fought the fatigue gripping her body. Moordryd dismounted and approached the girl.
“Who are you?” he asked. The girl seemed reluctant to speak, but she eventually gave a sigh.
“My name is Sakara Seiryu, and I run this yard.”
“Well, Sakara, you’d better tell us where the black and gold dragon is, or we’ll destroy this place,” Moordryd replied. Sakara’s eyes widened with panic, and he smiled. It was obvious that she was struggling to come to terms with his threat. “But, like you said, you won’t tell us. So I guess that means you can say goodbye to this place.” He turned to his crew and nodded. The dragons activated the green ramming gear and red thruster gear, and their riders drew their mag-staffs.
Moordryd grinned. “So, you decided to tell us after all. What a waste of theatrics.”
“The black and gold dragon is in the back of that barn,” Sakara muttered viciously, nodding towards the barn, “but don’t think you’ll leave here with her.”
“You’re not in any position to make threats, so stay quiet,” Moordryd snapped, firing another trap at her. The Dragon Eyes guffawed as she was knocked back against the wall, and left her alone in the yard.
The barn was dark and dingy, unlike the stables outside. It seemed to be used for storage, as there were many discarded brooms and pitchforks littering the floor. Moordryd picked his way over them towards the back of the shed, intent on finding the dragon and pleasing his father.
“Where are the lights in this place?” Cain pressed a switch on the wall and the whole room was flooded with light. All the equipment in the barn was visible, as well as the black and gold dragon glaring at the intruders from inside the stable at the very back. Her eyes burned with fury as she prepared for a mag blast, the gold and purple light swirling around her. Moordryd had only a second to panic before he was blasted out of the barn, along with the rest of the Dragon Eyes and a good deal of the pitchforks. The dragon charged after the trespassers, swiping the cables of the green trapping gear with her tail as she passed. Sakara grabbed her mag-staff from the floor and leapt onto Saierria’s back, and the hybrid dragon shrieked deafeningly. Most of the black dragons fled with their riders in hot pursuit, but Decepshun refused to move, staring deep into Saierria’s eyes.
“Decepshun! Move!” Moordryd yelled, yanking the saddle round, but still the dragon remained motionless. Finally, she bowed her head low as a sign of respect. Saierria returned the gesture with a small growl of appreciation. Decepshun smiled, before turning and sprinting after her fellows.
Sakara patted Saierria’s neck absent-mindedly, staring after Moordryd and Decepshun. “Decepshun…your half sister…”
Moordryd recoiled as his father slammed his fists onto the desk, sending the various objects atop it jittering across its surface.
“I asked you to do one thing for me! One simple thing! And can you do that? You are a disgrace! Get out of my sight!”
“But Father, the dragon was –” Moordryd began, but Word cut him off.
“GET OUT!!!” he roared, snatching a dragon skull from his desk and hurling it at his son. Moordryd ducked just in time to avoid losing his head, and fled from his father’s wrath.
A disgruntled spidrag scuttled along the wall as Moordryd punched it in frustration and desperation. His father had blamed him for all their failures, whether it was his fault or not. He was given all the responsibility and none of the credit, and he was sick of it. He futilely tried to hold back the tears of neglect that were welling up in his eyes. Decepshun gently nudged her rider’s shoulder with her snout, with a rumble of anxiety. At this, Moordryd broke down completely, throwing his arms around Decepshun’s neck and sobbing uncontrollably. His father had used him for years, used him as a pawn in his plans for war. But even he needed shelter from the cold, uncaring attitude he silently received day after day.
Sakara stroked the black scales of the dragon’s neck, lulling a soothing song. Vindycshun raised her head slightly and hummed along in her soft draconian voice. Her sky blue eyes were half-closed in the dark, and the purple markings all over her slender frame were all but lost in the night.
“Decepshun arrived today, Vindycshun,” Sakara murmured. “Your sister.”
Vindycshun’s eyes widened, and she gave a questioning growl.
“I know it was her. She has the same kind heart as you, and you were practically identical.”
The dragon dropped her gaze to the floor as a smile spread across her dragonish lips. Finally, her long-lost twin had been found…
Chapter Two: Unexpected
“Did you hear about the stable raid last night?” Parmon asked, not looking up from the gear he was modifying.
“Yeah, it was at that new place near Squire’s End, wasn’t it?” Kitt replied. “A stable full of nothing but black dragons…it’s not surprising that the Dragon Eyes were interested in raiding the place.”
“The owners were lucky that they didn’t lose any dragons,” Parmon pointed out. “Apparently, the whole crew turned up in the area.”
Artha sat up and switched off his vidgame. “Whoa, back up! One person took out the whole Dragon Eyes crew?”
“One person?” Lance echoed. “How can one person run a stable like that?”
“How did you find that out?” Parmon asked.
“There was a huge crowd around there this morning when I went to scope it out and everyone was saying that there was only one person running the place, and that she’d scared the whole crew off by herself.”
“Sounds like you’ve got some competition there, hero-boy,” Kitt teased, turning back to Wyldfire.
“Kitt’s right. Even the Dragon Booster would struggle with something like that,” Parmon murmured.
“Well, I think we should get on the track before much longer, Artha,” Kitt declared, getting into the saddle Wyldfire had just magged and leaving the tent.
“Right behind you, Kitt,” Artha called, jumping onto Beau’s saddle and pursuing Kitt.
The area around the racetrack was packed with people and dragons. Several racers were making their way to the start line, and Artha hastily moved into the line.
“Have you got the gear, Cain?”
“Of course, like I’d leave it behind on a day like this.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Moordryd asked testily, turning on Cain.
“I’m just saying that the conditions couldn’t be better for using some tricks out there,” Cain replied coolly. “The track’s still wet after the rain last night, and it’s going to be hard to get a grip when the dragons are dodging attacks from you.”
Moordryd grunted in response, not overly convinced that his lieutenant was being completely truthful. He climbed into Decepshun’s saddle and magged the gear that Cain had just removed from the boxes on the floor.
“I’ll see you after the race. Keep your wristcom handy,” Moordryd advised as he left the tent and headed for the start line.
Vindycshun waited patiently on the track for the other dragons to get into position, while keeping both eyes open for any sign of a black dragon. But there was so much activity that it was impossible to see anything but prancing dragons. Finally, the dragons were all lined up along the start, and Vindycshun had a clear view along both sides. She was so engrossed in her search that she soon became oblivious to the other racers, until a green Bull-class dragon stamped its foot, impatient for the race to start. She gave a squeal and jerked her head up, jostling Sakara.
“Whoa, girl, easy!” Sakara murmured, stroking the dragon’s neck. “Are you going to be this jumpy all through the race?” Vindycshun turned sorrowful eyes towards her rider. “I know you want to find your sister. But we can look for her after the race, I promise. Just focus on winning first, okay?”
The dragon nodded and faced the track that stretched out before her. She took a deep, relaxing breath and closed her eyes.
“Welcome, people of Dragon City, to the All City Race!” Race Marshall Budge roared, spreading his arms wide. A mighty cheer went up through the crowds, and several dragons began pawing the ground nervously. Decepshun snorted and jerked her head back and forth several times, before throwing it back and screaming to the spectators. Moordryd, who had nearly been thrown off by the motion, stroked her neck and muttered soothing words.
Vindycshun remained motionless during the roaring of the crowd, but completely lost her focus as Decepshun bellowed. The sound was so familiar, like a dream…She gave a series of high-pitched squeaks, dragging her claws through the surface of the track excitedly. Sakara placed a hand on her back, and she remembered the promise of her rider. She struggled to contain her enthusiasm, and Sakara could sense the energy building in her dragon’s back legs.
“Today’s winner walks away with the prize of five thousand Dracles, and this brand-new level six blue balance gear!” He gestured towards the podium next to him, and a spotlight illuminated the artfully crafted balance gear in all its glory.
“You ready to win that gear, Beau?” Artha asked confidently. The red and blue dragon bared his teeth in a grin and snorted.
“Ladies and gentlemen, let the race begin!”
Sakara took a deep breath and a tighter hold on her dragon’s neck. This was her first time on the racetrack, and she had to make a good impression. Vindycshun began arching her neck as the countdown started, and put her weight on her back paws, ready for a rapid start.
The gates opened, and the track became a blur of confusion and dust clouds as the viewers cheered and the dragons thundered down the track. Two collided in the blinding clouds, bringing down several more on the start line.
The gold dragon sprang over the pile of dragons and riders, but didn’t quite clear the thrashing tail of one. He caught his front paw and lurched forwards in midair, landing awkwardly and decreasing his speed. Artha nearly soared over Beau’s head, but he managed to grip the saddle just in time. Moordryd took his opportunity to dash past the stumbling dragon and get closer to first place.
“Well, I’ve never seen anything quite like this, folks! It seems that there are only three dragons left in the running, and the race just started!” Budge bellowed excitedly.
Sakara was relieved that Vindycshun had managed to pull ahead of the other racers before the collision, and patted the dragon’s neck gratefully. Vindycshun slowed to a comfortable pace and settled down slightly, allowing her to keep more of an eye on the two racers behind her.
Moordryd urged Decepshun on faster, and pushed his feet backwards, activating the red thruster gear on either side of his dragon. She lengthened her stride as the fire propelled her forwards, towards the new racer. Moordryd activated the green ramming gear, and Decepshun narrowed her blue eyes as she aimed herself at the dragon.
Sakara was fully aware of the black dragon speeding towards her, ramming gear magged. She leant forwards and whispered to Vindycshun, and the dragon looked back over her shoulder with an expression of shock on her face. Reluctantly, she closed her eyes and allowed the mag energy to flow freely within her body, supplying her muscles with power.
A smile spread across Moordryd’s face. This racer’s career would be over before it began, and it was up to him to dispose of them. But something made him hesitate. The racer looked so familiar…her copper-brown hair playing out behind her, unrestricted…the racer had no helmet or saddle…or gear…
Sakara turned to check the positions of the other dragons, and Moordryd almost fell off Decepshun from shock. Of all the racers it could have been, it had to be the one he had tried to steal from.
Vindycshun began powering up for a massive mag blast. The black draconium surged through her bones, and she glowed with a blinding light. She threw herself off the ground and screeched as the energy blasted backwards, straight towards the two racers behind her.
“Decepshun, jump!” Moordryd screamed. Decepshun hurled herself as high as she could and used the white aero and red thruster gear to climb rapidly above the pulse of mag energy. Beau dug his claws into the track and tried to turn sharply away from the attack, and Artha activated the aero and thruster gear as Moordryd had just done. The two dragons spiralled into the air, and Vindycshun began breathing laboriously through her flaring nostrils as the mag energy built up again.
“That’s enough, Vindycshun,” Sakara murmured. Vindycshun opened her eyes and used the energy to increase her pace and gain a longer lead on the other racers.
Artha levelled Beau out and began gliding over the track. He noticed Moordryd staring after the racer that had attacked them both, and followed his gaze. He was shocked to see that the rider was female, and that she was gaining ground rapidly.
“Beau, we have to get back in the lead,” he told his dragon. Beau growled and deactivated the aero gear, causing him to dive and spiral towards Moordryd and Decepshun, propelled by the thruster gear.
Moordryd heard the thruster gear above him and powered down his own. Decepshun dropped just enough to avoid being rammed by Beau, but the gold dragon only just managed to raise his paws in time to land and pursue the black dragon that was tanking off around the corner. Decepshun snarled and fired a mag blast at the area in front of Beau, ripping up a section of the track. Beau launched himself over the uneven ground and magged Artha up to meet Moordryd. He drew his mag-staff and prepared to attack the Dragon Eyes leader.
A blast of black draconium energy shot across the stream of gold, blocking Artha’s support as he soared towards Moordryd. He felt himself dropping, and made a blind grab for Decepshun’s leg. His fingers touched her scaly paw, and he tightened his grasp. Decepshun glared furiously and made to snap at Artha’s hand, but the movement altered her course, sending her straight towards the ground. She tried to move her back legs towards the ever-nearing track, but Artha’s weight made it almost impossible to move them. Moordryd threw his hands in front of his face and crouched low over Decepshun’s neck.
Another mag stream arced over the track and made contact with Decepshun, and pulled her legs forward. Her ankles absorbed the shock from the landing and propelled her along the trail, leaving Artha in a heap behind her. Beau charged from behind and magged his rider, racing with a new-found desire to defeat the newcomer.
Moordryd couldn’t understand why Sakara would want to help him after he had attempted to steal her dragon. Not only had she blocked the Stable-brat’s attack, she had saved him from a painful collision with the ground. He noticed that Decepshun seemed to be particularly feisty, more willing to catch up with the black dragon than attack her. But her energy levels were down, and she was breathing heavily as she surged after Sakara. Moordryd watched Artha out of the corner of his eye as the gold dragon overtook him, and lashed out with his energy draining whip at the last minute. It latched onto Beau’s shoulder, and he gritted his teeth against the fatigue replacing his energy.
Decepshun welcomed the gold dragon’s energy gladly as her breathing eased, and she activated the red thruster gear once more, dragging Beau along behind her. Moordryd focused on the bend in the track ahead of him and urged Decepshun onwards. As the dragon took the curve, Moordryd removed the whip from Beau and took off. The momentum from Decepshun sent Beau and Artha flying off the track and into a rubbish bin.
“And Artha Penn is down and out!” screamed Budge excitedly. “This is a one-on-one race between Moordryd Paynn and Sakara Seiryu!”
Parmon sat up at the mentioning of Sakara. “Sakara Seiryu? That’s the girl from the stable, the one that the Dragon Eyes raided!”
“You’re kidding! She can’t be racing already!” Kitt exclaimed, snatching the binoculars from Parmon and scanning the track to try and catch a glimpse of the racer. Lance contacted Artha on his wristcom.
“Artha, we’ve just found out who that girl is that’s helping Moordryd!”
Artha removed the fish skeleton from his mouth and hoisted himself out of the bin, while Beau tried to get himself out. “Go on.”
“It’s the girl from the stable raid!”
“That’s what Kitt said when Parm told us. She’s looking for her right now.”
“Okay, Lance, thanks. If you hear anything else, keep me posted. I’m making my way back now,” Artha replied miserably, terminating the connection. Beau made another attempt to remove himself from the bin, and upon failing lost his temper. Several people in the stands were showered in smoking pieces of rubbish and bin, while Beau huffed angrily.
“Beau, I know you’re upset, but can you stop mag blasting the trash cans, please?” Artha asked, exasperated. His only response was a glare.
Vindycshun’s paws barely touched the track as she raced, yet she was steadily gaining ground over Moordryd and Decepshun. Sakara could see the finish line approaching and crouched low over her dragon as her pace quickened.
“NO!” Moordryd bellowed, activating his wristcom. “Cain, do something!”
Cain pulled a disruptor mine off Coershun’s saddle and hurled it in front of the black dragon as she dashed for the finish. In a split second, she adjusted her stride and drove her back paws into the ground, the force carrying her way above the mine’s trigger radius. Cain paled as he imagined Moordryd’s face after the race, but things were about to get much worse. Moordryd was so focused on pushing Decepshun towards the finish that he failed to notice the flashing mine directly in front of him until he was almost on top of it. He screamed and jerked the saddle upwards, but Decepshun tripped over her own feet and stumbled right into the disruptor mine.
Vindycshun smiled as she crossed the line, seconds before the explosion behind her. Skidding to a halt, she curiously looked back to see what had happened. Sakara had only a fleeting glimpse of black before she lurched backwards, almost left behind by Vindycshun’s rapid acceleration.
Moordryd cursed and punched the ground, but it was a bad move on his part. The smoke irritated his throat and lungs, and he lapsed into a coughing fit as Decepshun picked herself up. She shook her head a little to clear it and looked around blearily. A dark shape was approaching fast, and when Decepshun’s vision was less blurry, she could make out a pair of eyes, blue as her own. Instinctively, she growled and crouched low over Moordryd, who was still choking on the dust. The shape stopped a few feet from them, and a figure dismounted the creature Decepshun now recognised as a dragon. The human advanced towards Moordryd and Decepshun snarled again, but she stopped abruptly when she recognised the dragon.
“Decepshun, meet your sister, Vindycshun,” the girl murmured. Moordryd was so surprised that he stopped coughing and looked up at the girl he now recognised as Sakara. Decepshun took a step forward, her eyes fixed on Vindycshun, and gave a small questioning growl. Vindycshun nodded her pretty head and smiled, before she could control herself no longer. She surged towards Decepshun and danced around her, squeaking like an excited hatchling. Decepshun watched her sister prancing around dubiously, still unsure and shy. She turned her eyes to Sakara, who gave a small nod, and settled down considerably. The two dragons began playing, nipping at each other’s tails and heels, while Sakara approached Moordryd. He stood up hastily, not willing to be caught off-guard.
“Are you okay?” Sakara asked coldly.
“I guess,” Moordryd replied, just as icy in demeanour as the girl. “Not that it concerns you,” he added, making to walk past her and remount Decepshun.
“Not that you deserve my concern anyway, Paynn.”
Moordryd hesitated, his temper rising rapidly. “Look, don’t take it out on me. I was just doing my job. You happened to be in the way.”
“So, you weren’t trying to steal my dragon? Out of all the dragons in this city, you chose mine completely at random?” Sakara narrowed her eyes at Moordryd’s silence. “I’ll take that as a no, then.” She watched the two dragons playing for a while. “Those two have known each other for five minutes, and they’re acting as if they’ve been together all their lives.” She glanced back at Moordryd, who was still silent. “I know that your father is forcing you to steal dragons,” she murmured.
Moordryd looked up sharply, shocked, but before he could reply, the Race Marshall made an announcement that drowned out all other sound.
“Congratulations to Sakara Seiryu, our newcomer! Please come up here to accept your prize of five thousand Dracles and blue balance gear!”
Sakara gave Moordryd one last meaningful look before she headed to the podium where she would receive her prize. Vindycshun looked up from her tussle with Decepshun and obediently followed her rider, without a word from Sakara. Moordryd had seen enough, and left the track before Sakara reached the podium.
“So, what happened to stopping her, Cain?” Moordryd asked bitterly as he approached his lieutenant.
“I threw the mine and she jumped over it. It’s not my fault,” Cain mumbled sulkily. He recoiled as Moordryd appeared barely an inch from his face.
“It IS your fault, Cain! I asked you to do one simple thing for me, and could you do that? NO!” Moordryd yelled, losing his temper completely. He stormed past Cain towards the Dragon Eyes tent.
Sakara watched Moordryd stomping across the track, clutching her gear and money. She whispered into Vindycshun’s ear and leapt onto her back, and the pair shot behind a tent and out of view.
An empty can flew across the floor, propelled by Moordryd’s foot as he entered the tent in a less-than-happy mood. Decepshun put her head between the two pieces of fabric, an expression of anxiety on her face. Moordryd ignored her, more intent on flopping into the nearest chair and moping. He held his head in his hands and sighed, trying to calm himself down before he lashed out at someone. The last conversation he had held with his father echoed in his head.
“I asked you to do one thing for me! One simple thing! And you do that? You are a disgrace! Get out of my sight!”
Guilt spread through Moordryd’s body, giving his stomach the sensation that it had been filled with lead. He sounded just like his father…the father he criticised…
A glint of blue caught his eye, and he glanced up at the table. The blue balance gear Sakara had just won was lying on the table, gleaming in the sunlight filtering through the entrance to the tent. A note lay by the side of it, fluttering slightly in the breeze. Moordryd picked up the note and read it to himself.
I am willing to forgive you for trying to take Saierria. I know that you are not a bad person. You are only doing what your father tells you to. I am giving this blue balance gear to you as a gesture of friendship. You don’t have to accept it if you don’t want it, but I have no need for it, and I wouldn’t want to give it to that bighead Penn. I would be very grateful if you could visit me tomorrow at my stables.
See you tomorrow, hopefully,
Moordryd placed the note back on the table and leaned back in his chair. That girl was the most confusing person he had ever met. He turns up to steal her dragon, so she gives him blue balance gear as a friendship gift? He shook his head in disbelief and picked up the gear.
“Hey, Decepshun, come here a second,” he called. Decepshun warily padded over to him, worried whether he was going to lash out or not. He stroked her nose lovingly. “Don’t worry, girl, I’m okay now. Can you mag this on?”
Decepshun blinked and took the gear from his hands with a mag stream, placing it on her hindquarters. She turned so he could see how it looked.
“Not bad, it suits you.” Moordryd patted his dragon’s side as he thought about Sakara’s invitation. Weird or not, she was probably worth getting to know. She could compete in the All City race with no gear, not even a saddle, and win on her own intuition and her dragon’s agility. He stood up and got into Decepshun’s saddle, and the two set off back to the Dragon Eyes compound.
Chapter Three: Just Normal Teenagers
“Well, it looks like he won’t be turning up,” Sakara mumbled gloomily. Vindycshun made a small sound of sympathy and nudged her owner’s shoulder lovingly. She had always felt something fishy about Moordryd, but she didn’t think he would be so rude as to turn down a gesture of friendship. And if Sakara couldn’t see Moordryd, Decepshun wouldn’t be around either. She raised her blue eyes to the stable entrance once more, willing Moordryd to turn up, but there was nothing but a lone crowdrag making its way back to its nest. She gave a sigh and turned towards her stall, leaving Sakara alone in the middle of the yard.
“Come on, Decepshun! Faster!”
Decepshun made a groaning noise of protest, already worn out, but gave it her all as they rounded the final corner. Sakara’s stables loomed ahead of them, and Decepshun felt energy surge through her body as it always did on the track. It was just like the end of a race to her, the final push along the straight. Moordryd saw Sakara turn to leave the yard mere metres ahead of him, and yelled her name as loud as he could.
Upon hearing her name, Sakara wheeled round just in time to see Decepshun skidding to a halt, but the dragon looked set to crash into the girl. Without so much as a flinch, Sakara remained perfectly still as Decepshun dug her talons into the ground in a desperate bid to stop.
Moordryd couldn’t understand why Sakara wasn’t moving. Any person would have the sense to get out of the way of a charging dragon, even if it was stopping. At the last second, when Decepshun was almost on top of Sakara, the dragon reared up onto her back legs. Moordryd made a wild grab for the saddle before he slipped off backwards, but Decepshun had managed to halt, and her entire body jerked forwards as her front paws landed barely an inch from Sakara’s feet. The momentum from the rapid change of speed sent the already shaken Moordryd into what would have been a somersault over Decepshun’s head, had he not still been instinctively grasping the saddle. Instead, he soared over her head, before swinging back under her chin and colliding painfully with the ground. Inwardly, he cursed. He had completely ruined the start of the meeting, and he knew Sakara must be laughing at him.
Sakara offered her hand to Moordryd, and he was relieved to see that she wasn’t laughing. He took her hand gratefully and allowed her to pull him to his feet.
“That looked painful. Are you alright?”
“Yeah,” Moordryd replied, wincing as he stood up. “I’m probably just bruised. I’ve had worse falls than that before.”
“There’s no need to try and impress me, you know,” Sakara teased. “That tends to put me off boys.”
Moordryd looked up furiously. “I’m not trying to impress you!” he spat.
“I know, I was just kidding,” Sakara giggled, placing a hand on Decepshun’s nose. “She’s worn out. I think she should rest for a while,” she murmured.
Moordryd was about to reply when he noticed a pale blue glow behind Sakara. She noticed where he was looking and glanced over her shoulder.
“Vindycshun, cut that out,” she called irritably. “If you keep freaking everyone out, I’ll never get good business.”
Vindycshun stepped out from the shadows, snickering. When she noticed Decepshun, she squealed and bounded over to her, but Decepshun made it clear that she was in no mood to play with a snarl and a venomous glare. Offended, Vindycshun lowered her head and gently nudged her sister’s shoulder, showing her that she could be mature. Rolling her eyes and smirking, Decepshun eased herself onto her stomach to take the weight off her paws.
“Shall we take a walk?” Sakara asked Moordryd.
“Decepshun doesn’t seem to want to move right now,” Moordryd observed. Decepshun had rolled onto one side with her eyes closed, slipping into dreams. Sakara giggled again and turned to the barn behind her.
“Wait here a second,” she told Moordryd. “You can make a fuss of Vindycshun if you want. She’ll probably thank you for it,” she added, before disappearing behind the door.
Moordryd glanced at Vindycshun, and she sniffed his hand thoughtfully. He stroked her snout, and the dragon closed her blue eyes lazily, apparently enjoying the attention. When Moordryd took his hand away, Vindycshun opened one eye and gave a series of grunting sounds, and laughed at the confused expression on the human’s face. Moordryd marvelled at how similar Vindycshun and Decepshun were. They had the same eye colour and body frame, and they were almost identical in height. The only thing that differed was their personalities. Vindycshun was a playful, cheery dragon, while Decepshun was more of a serious soul.
His thoughts were interrupted by the reappearance of Sakara, along with two black dragons, one male and one female. The male was slightly bulkier and taller than the female, but the red-rimmed eyes of the female gave her a slightly eerie look.
“Will you be alright riding Arcayne?” Sakara asked. “He’s a lot like Decepshun, only a bit heavier. There shouldn’t be a lot of difference between them.”
“I should be okay,” Moordryd replied, going to take the saddle from Decepshun. As he approached, she opened one eye and magged the saddle in his direction. He only just caught it and glared at his dragon. “What was that for?” he asked angrily, but Decepshun smiled sweetly, and he realised that she was uncomfortable with the saddle on her back when she was lying on the yard, and had only been helping him out. He shook his head and turned to Arcayne, who eyed the saddle with great interest. Before Moordryd could take more than three steps, he magged the saddle and crouched down to make life easier for his rider. Moordryd blinked in disbelief.
“He’s keen to get going today,” Sakara commented.
“If only Decepshun would be this helpful before the races…” Moordryd murmured, looking sideways at Decepshun. She swished her tail and grunted dismissively, before flopping back to her original position. Moordryd laughed at his dragon’s reaction, but the glare he received from her was more than enough to silence him.
“Vindycshun, can you stay here and look after things while we’re gone?” Sakara asked, and Vindycshun nodded, curling up next to her sister. The girl smiled and climbed onto the female dragon’s back effortlessly.
“How long have you been riding without a saddle?” Moordryd asked out of curiosity. Sakara thought for a moment before answering.
“Since I could sit up, I suppose.”
Moordryd whistled. “And how old are you now, if you don’t mind me asking?”
Not even a whistle escaped Moordryd’s lips. He was stunned into silence. Sakara laughed at his expression and gestured towards the gate. “Shall we get a move on?”
Still unable to speak, Moordryd nodded weakly, and Sakara’s mount instantly headed out of the yard. Arcayne followed almost immediately, without a word from Moordryd or Sakara. The teenage boy was surprised to discover just how similar the dragon was to Decepshun. Like Sakara had told him, his stride was nearly identical to that of his own dragon, and the only real difference was the weight of Arcayne.
The two dragons bore their riders around the corner and entered Dragway 54, speeding up slightly to avoid being bad-mouthed by the more impatient riders on the streets.
“So, how does Arcayne feel to ride?” Sakara asked.
“He’s just like Decepshun, only a little heavier,” Moordryd replied. Arcayne smiled and gave a small grunt of appreciation, before sneaking a sideways glance at Sakara’s dragon. She rolled her eyes and snorted.
“Lay off her, will you? You know she’s not interested,” Sakara laughed. Arcayne sighed and carried on walking, hanging his head slightly lower. “Ignore him, Nyghtfall,” she added to her dragon.
“How many dragons do you have at the stables?” Moordryd enquired, interested.
“Fifty-nine, and there are nine batches of eggs that should hatch next week, if everything goes alright.” She leant back and placed a hand on Nyghtfall’s hindquarters to balance herself. “If you want, I’ll call you when they start hatching. There’s nothing more magical than watching newborn dragons take their first few steps.”
“That’d be great, thanks.”
The conversations went on as they made their way through to the area surrounding Penn Stables, and Moordryd glared at an advertisement for the building.
“I hate that Penn brat,” he growled menacingly.
“He’s too cocky. He doesn’t realise that he’s no better than all of us on that track,” Sakara muttered. “Bighead,” she added viciously. Nyghtfall and Arcayne snorted in agreement.
They continued to moan about Artha until they were almost at the gates of the stables in question.
“Let’s go another way,” Sakara grumbled. “The dragons in there always drive me up the wall.”
“I thought you’d never suggest it,” Moordryd replied, grinning. The two dragons set off down another dragway, Arcayne still intent on impressing Nyghtfall. Eventually, the female grew so sick of the constant soppy look in his eyes that she lunged at Arcayne, fangs bared and snarling. Arcayne became far less of a nuisance, and Moordryd was nearly unseated by the sudden motion of the dragon as he recoiled.
“I’m sorry about that,” Sakara apologised, once Arcayne had recovered from the shock. “He thinks he knows best all the time, but he never learns.”
After considering it for a long time, Moordryd dared to voice a question that had been on his mind. “Sakara?” he began tentatively.
“Why don’t –” He cleared his throat and tried again. “Do you run the stable on your own?”
“I suppose. Saierria sometimes helps me out,” Sakara replied quietly.
“Oh…Where are your parents, then?” Moordryd wished he hadn’t asked the question a split second too late. Sakara dropped her gaze to the floor, and the two dragons glared at him. “I’m sorry…don’t tell me if you don’t…” He gave up trying to rectify the mistake as Sakara looked up into his face.
“My parents died a long time ago,” she explained. “I was two years old.”
“I’m so sorry…”
“Don’t worry about it. I don’t mind that much anymore. To be honest, I don’t really remember a lot from back then anyway.” She shook her hair out of her eyes and turned her face to the sky. “Do you mind if I tell you what happened? I need to get it out of my mind again.”
Moordryd inclined his head a little to signal to her to begin the tale. “As long as you don’t cry all over me,” he joked. Sakara laughed and started her story.
“My parents were both breeders before they met each other, and they set up a stable together when they were married. My mother had Saierria’s egg, and my father had the strongest black Psi-Class dragon you’ve ever seen. His name was Toxyc, and he won every race he competed in every time. But he wouldn’t let anyone other than my parents or me near him. When I was born, Saierria and Vindycshun hatched at the exact same moment, and we grew up together.
“One day, my mother was taking a delivery of dragon eggs to a customer and my father was mucking out the dragon stalls. I was playing with Saierria and Vindycshun in the barn, when Toxyc looked up at the sky. All the dragons did the same, and then I felt it. There was a strange energy in the air, and my father stopped working and walked to the centre of the yard. Then a scream of pain sounded far away, and I recognised the voice as that of Desperayshun, my mother’s dragon.
“Something came over Toxyc and my father. They became…powerful, more so than before. Without a word to any of us, they vanished in a cloud of dust, faster than the wind. We knew where they had gone, and we waited for them to return victorious. But the hours went by, and the energy in the atmosphere grew. Eventually, when we had almost given up any hope of seeing them again, Toxyc bellowed to the night. But it wasn’t a cry of victory and joy. It was filled with sorrow and despair.
“Again, we waited, hoping that they would return unharmed. Finally, just before dawn, Toxyc appeared from the darkness, with my parents magged onto his back. We noticed him dragging Desperayshun’s body along behind him with white rappel gear. He just made it over the threshold of the yard, and he looked into my eyes with an expression of love and sorrow such as I have never seen before in my life. Then his legs gave way, and he died in the stables he grew up in, around his partner and riders.”
Moordryd looked horrified and leant across to place an arm around Sakara’s shoulder. “I’m so sorry…I shouldn’t have mentioned it…”
“It’s okay.” Sakara drew the back of her hand across her eyes and smiled at Moordryd. “You would have found out anyway.”
The dragway narrowed slightly ahead of them. It wasn’t narrow enough to force the dragons into single file, but it was still too constricted to walk along with so much space between the two dragons. Arcayne edged closer to Nyghtfall, remembering the way she had snapped earlier, but she gave the male dragon a warm smile as she passed. Blushing madly, Arcayne squeaked excitedly and turned his head sharply to the right so that Nyghtfall wouldn’t see his pleasure. He therefore didn’t realise how close Moordryd was getting to Sakara, thanks to the positioning of the saddle, and continued to move over towards Nyghtfall.
Moordryd was oblivious to the fact that Arcayne had moved his head at all, and had no idea how close Sakara was getting. He was lost in thoughts about Sakara’s past, and how she had taken over management of a stable at such a young age.
Nyghtfall moved slightly in front of Arcayne as the dragway narrowed again, and Moordryd was soon right next to Sakara. Overexcited, Arcayne threw his head to the left in an attempt to nip Nyghtfall’s flank, but managed to gain some self-control and jerked his head back to the right. The motion caught Moordryd off-guard and he was thrown into Sakara, and the two tumbled to the ground. Nyghtfall glared at Arcayne, who had the decency to look ashamed. The two teenagers hit the floor with a lot of force behind them, and Moordryd landed on top of Sakara, his lips mere inches from hers. His vision settled, and he realised just how close he was to her, and how shocked she seemed. He blushed furiously and hastily stood up, but he chose his moment badly, for Nyghtfall had just aimed a tail whack at Arcayne. The dragon had jumped backwards, leaving Moordryd still semi-dazed and embarrassed in the way. He was sent flying on top of Sakara again, and this time their lips touched. In that split second they were just normal teenagers, not pawns in someone else’s game for war or orphans trying to support over fifty dragons.
Moordryd moved backwards, wide-eyed and highly embarrassed. Sakara wore a similar expression, but was blushing a lot more than Moordryd. Nyghtfall glowered at Arcayne and snapped at his tail. In her mind, he shouldn’t have moved out of the way. Abashed, Arcayne magged Moordryd onto his back, leaving Nyghtfall free to do the same to Sakara. Both teens were extremely uncomfortable and made studious attempts to avoid eye contact with each other. Neither spoke until they were back outside Sakara’s stables, and Moordryd broke the painful silence.
“Look, I’m sorry about that…” he began nervously.
“Don’t apologise, it wasn’t your fault,” Sakara replied. Nyghtfall shot another venomous glare at Arcayne, and he dropped his gaze guiltily.
Moordryd slid off Arcayne’s back and began leading the dragon into the yard. “I’ll help you sort these two out, if you like,” he offered. Sakara smiled warmly.
“If you could, that’d be great, thanks.”
Together, Sakara and Moordryd took Arcayne’s saddle off and led the dragons to their stables. Nyghtfall was still cold towards the male, and the two teenagers barely spoke as they closed the doors. Moordryd lifted his hand to rest it on the door, but chose to do so just as Sakara did the same. Their hands touched, and they blushed yet again. Moordryd hurriedly withdrew his hand.
“I should be getting back,” he mumbled. “My father will scale me if I get back late.”
“Okay…If you ever want to visit, you’re welcome any time,” Sakara replied.
“Thanks for today…” Moordryd turned to face Sakara. “I had a good time…”
Sakara dropped her gaze to the floor. “You’re welcome…I’ll get Decepshun out of…” She looked up. “Actually, I don’t know where she is. Do you know where she might have gone?”
Moordryd thought for a second. “She’s probably with Vindycshun someplace. Is she in the barn?”
“She might be.” Sakara stuck her head around the edge of the barn door. “Decepshun?”
The black dragon raised her head and grunted sleepily. Vindycshun, on the other hand, squealed and bolted towards her owner, almost failing to stop. Decepshun shook the sleep from her head and approached Moordryd.
“Hello, girl,” Moordryd whispered, taking a step inside the barn to meet her.
Saierria narrowed her eyes and gave a thunderous growl at the sight of Moordryd. He stopped dead in his tracks and cringed as she roared deafeningly. He was aware of someone stepping between him and the enraged dragon.
“Saierria, leave him alone!” Sakara cried sternly. The black and gold dragon took several steps backwards, but kept her eyes fixed on Moordryd. “I’m sorry about that,” the girl apologised. “She must still be angry about the other night.”
“Yeah.” Moordryd picked up Decepshun’s saddle and walked towards the dragon. She lazily magged it from his hands and crouched down to let him on. “I’ll be seeing you around,” Moordryd called as he made his way to the main gate of the stables.
“I’ll call you if the dragon eggs hatch soon,” Sakara answered.
Sakara watched Moordryd and Decepshun until they were around the corner and out of sight. Vindycshun nudged the girl’s shoulder playfully and grinned cheekily.
“What?” Sakara raised an eyebrow at her dragon’s behaviour. Vindycshun snickered and swished her tail smugly, and Sakara suddenly realised what the dragon found so funny. “Oh, I get it. Arcayne and Nyghtfall have told you about what happened, haven’t they?”
Saierria wandered out of the barn, still wearing a frown. She raised her eyebrows at Sakara and growled.
“And what’s got under your scales, missy?” Sakara asked irritably. The black and gold dragon jerked her head towards the gate. “Look, it was an accident. And anyway, what I do is none of your business.” Saierria stamped a paw in frustration. “Saierria, I know he tried to take you, but he’s only trying to please his father. If you want hold a grudge against anyone, make it Word Paynn and not Moordryd.”
The dragon snorted disbelievingly and left the yard, heading for the barn again.
Saierria opened an eye sleepily at the sound of footsteps and instinctively growled softly. Vindycshun replied cheerily with a squeak and settled down next to her half-sister.
“Rrraa-rah muuruh?” Saierria grunted. “Do you have to sneak up on me like that?”
“Of course! The day’s no fun without you moaning at me!” Vindycshun replied with a grin. Saierria rolled her eyes and laid her head back on her paws.
“I don’t trust that Paynn…” she muttered to herself.
“Lighten up, won’t you? You heard Sakie, it’s not his fault.” Vindycshun snarled and dragged her talons through a discarded box on the floor. “If I ever meet that Word Paynn she was talking about, I’ll…” She broke off and ripped the lid off the box.
“Calm down, Vindy…” Saierria flicked her tail gently from side to side. “I’m not sure that he’s the good one here. I can sense something dark in his soul, some ancient shadow…”
“Don’t sweat it, sis, it’s called black draconium. It’s ancient enough, I guess. And I’ve been talking to Decepshun. She says that nothing’s up. In fact, she said that he’s the kindest human she knows. He takes care of her like he was her brother, and he’s brave, too.”
“She would say that about her human, though. Oh, this is too strenuous to think about before bed…” Saierria rolled onto her side and groaned, while Vindycshun chuckled.
“If I do that, you have a go at me.”
Saierria gave Vindycshun a glare that would have hardboiled an egg. “Look, technically, I’m over two thousand years older than you. So start showing me some respect before I start demanding it.”
“Oh yeah, I keep forgetting that your egg waited for Sakie. It must have been so boring just sat there, staring at an eggshell for two thousand years…”
“Hey, it wasn’t the egg that waited, it was me. I had this feeling that I had to wait, so I did.” Saierria curled herself up against the wall and peered sagely at Vindycshun. “You really should get to sleep, Vindy. There’s a race tomorrow, and I hear that Sakara’s taking you.”
Vindycshun sat bolt upright. “You can’t tell me that before bed! I’ll never sleep now!”
“Well, at least shut up so I can sleep.”
“And where, dare I ask, have you been?” Word asked his son, his voice deceptively calm.
“Just here and there. It’s not against the law to go for a walk, you know,” Moordryd replied irritably. He hated his father trying to control his life, expecting him to turn up on a whim.
“Do you know what the time is, Moordryd?”
The teenager’s stomach dropped with the weight of guilt. He suddenly remembered his father asking him to turn up in his office at nine o’clock that night.
“Let me guess. It’s past nine,” Moordryd mumbled.
“Well done! You’ve finally learnt how to tell the time. Isn’t it a shame that you couldn’t have learnt it two hours ago?” Word snarled. Moordryd dropped his gaze to his feet and remained silent. He knew that there was only so far he could push his father, and he was pretty near the line as it was, without any further provocation.
“What have you been doing all this time?” the CEO demanded, glaring over his shoulder at his son.
“Just…stuff…” Moordryd tried desperately to think of a feasible excuse, but all that he remembered was the moment when Nyghtfall whacked him on top of Sakara and they kissed…
“Oh, really? Well, it must have been pretty captivating for you to be so engrossed that you turn up two hours late,” Word grunted, turning to the screens behind him. Moordryd breathed a sigh of relief, glad that his father had chosen not to pursue the subject further.
“I want you to use this gear in your race tomorrow,” Word explained, pressing a button on a panel. A strange type of gear descended slowly from around the ceiling, suspended on two metallic arms. “It is a new type of mind control gear, more powerful than the one that failed on Pyrrah. You must get it onto the black and gold dragon during the race, and I will do the rest. I wouldn’t want to overexert your poor brain, as it is obviously incapable of performing more than one task at once for too long,” he added nastily. Moordryd ignored the slur, more worried about what his father was asking him to do.
“But what if Sakara doesn’t ride the dragon? She has a lot to choose from, you know,” he told his father desperately.
“Then you will take the gear to every race until she rides the dragon. You will not fail me, Moordryd. I must control that dragon if my plan for war is to come to pass.”
Moordryd dropped his eyes to the floor. “Yes, Father,” he mumbled, taking the gear his father passed to him and turning to leave.
“Oh, and Moordryd…”
The teenager froze. He knew what was coming.
“What were you doing earlier?”
“I told you…stuff…that’s all you need to know…” Moordryd muttered evasively, before striding from the room hastily.
Word narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “You’re up to something…”
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